Being able to forward messages and instantly share information is one of the blessings of email, but it is also a curse, as many people can attest. A simple, honest mistake can become a companywide conflagration once someone decides that everyone should know about it. A privately stated negative comment can become a human-resources nightmare when someone helpfully decides to forward the criticism to the person being discussed. Rumors become rampant as people rush to send them to everyone they know.
Here are some guidelines to keep you from over-forwarding.
Think of two people before you forward an email: the author of the item you are forwarding and the person you are forwarding to. First ask yourself if the person who wrote it would like other people to read it. If you are not sure, ask or err on the side of caution and do not forward.
Next, and equally important, realize that when you hit send you are sending a meta-message to all your recipients. You are saying, “What I have to tell you is so important that you should spend your valuable time reading it.” Ask yourself honestly: Is this joke, consumer alert, cartoon, political statement, bit of gossip, example of someone’s stupidity or other questionable material really worth taking people’s time?
Perhaps the item you are forwarding is of genuine interest to your reader; if so, fire away. However, think before you send. As the Gregg Reference Manual says, “Ask yourself if the person or people to whom you plan to forward the message have a pressing need to see it.”
A few etiquette points about forwarding:
- Do not force people to click through a series of attachments to get to the actual message you are sending. Make it easy on your readers.
- Protect the privacy of previous recipients. If the forward contains the email addresses of previous recipients, delete those names before you forward. Previous recipients probably do not want their email addresses sent all over creation just because someone decided to forward.
- The exception to this would be if you are forwarding something within your organization and want others to know who else received the email.
- If you are forwarding a group of people who do not know each other, protect the privacy of their email addresses by using the Bcc function. List the recipients’ names in the Bcc line and the To line will just read “undisclosed recipients”.
- If you are forwarding to a group that knows each other well, go ahead and list all the names in the To line. Then everyone will know who else received the message and will resist the urge to forward it to other members of the group.
Forwarded emails clog the overloaded inboxes of millions of individuals. They can stir up trouble where none need exist. They can also be tools for usefully sharing valuable information. Only you can decide whether the message you are about to forward should be sent. All I ask is that you pause and consider the question.
©2012 Elizabeth Danziger All rights reserved
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